This is the first time I've invited a guest blogger to contribute, and now I know I'll do this more often! Since Emily Rose and I left on Thursday to return to Austin, I figured the Camp James updates could continue in our absence. I love the new perspective and my sister's hilarious storytelling.
In an attempt to get myself onto Camp James time, I set my alarm to 6:30am, finding immediately that I was experiencing some sort of jet lag.
The night before, my sister, niece, James, and I watched Dr. Zhivago until the Entr’acte, at around 10pm (2 hours after James’ proclaimed “perfect bedtime”), when James and I wimped out and went to bed. As Amy mentioned in previous Camp James accounts, we discovered this week that Dr. Z is a long-ass film, and of course with settling in and checking the news of the world online, I didn’t really pass out until 11:30, a primary factor in my grogginess the next morning.
Fully expecting that James would be sleeping in past his usual 4am waking hour, I was shocked to find that he had already read his paper, had his coffee, and was outside petting Callie, the wild Calico. My stepfather is and always will be a “morning person," and was delighted to see me peeping and not sleeping. We chatted for a bit and he set out on his morning walk, returned, had his breakfast, and shortly after, Amy (sis) and Emily Rose (niece) joined us in the morning rituals. We finished watching Dr. Z, discussed what a beautiful piece of work James’ favorite film was, and I helped his Camp James (Phase 1) counselors pack up their car and head on down the road.
At this point, admittedly, I found myself feeling a great pressure. I suddenly realized that I had not prepared myself to be a Camp James counselor, and that maybe I should have come prepared with projects or a schedule of events! After all, it seemed like following the delights and creative family time of the Arndt counselor team would be like following a cameo of Beyoncé at a Karaoke bar (and if you don’t think that’s a proper reference, I will now point out that my Word program just made me correct the Lady B’s name with the proper accent – Word even knows who she is, people).
In all seriousness, I had a moment where I began frantically searching for cool things to do in Tyler. With little to no recent reference as to what is the haps in T-town, TX, aside from the sparse results of a Google search, I suggested a few events to James, and he settled on a visit to the Tyler Museum of Art.
I had not visited the museum since high school, and although I remember fondly the days when James was on the museum board and our cool family friend ran the museum and brought in musical acts like Joe Ely to give concerts in a room that sat maybe 40-50 people, I figured it was a whole new world by now. Naturally, I stepped up to the front desk, pulled out my wallet, and said to the curator-lady “Two, please," when suddenly I see James’ hand come around me flashing what I can only imagine is some sort of Lifetime VIP card of sorts.
At the same time, the eyes of the man sitting beside her, who could not have given two hoots about my approach, start to get very wide and he stands up, practically bowing, saying “Well, I do believe it’s James Wilkins!!”, at which point I stepped aside like the carriage driver, and let the entire museum staff, which quickly included the director and a guy I went to high school with, revel at the presence of a man I already knew was the sh*t .
At some point, we politely took leave to go view the collage art exhibit, and once more I remembered what it was like to be with James in his element. We created a pace, as people tend to do when examining art, and made little comments and critiques along the way.
Now, I should disclaim that, as Amy and ER were getting ready to leave earlier that morning, James had come into the living room to give me a little instruction about his hearing, or, rather, my voice. “Now, just to let you know, I have had my hearing checked out and everything taken care of, but you have a very soft voice, so, please, when you speak to me, if you could do it face-to-face and speak up really loud, so I can hear you, especially if it is something important.” I, as I normally do when someone has this chat with me, explained that I knew I had a little voice, but that I sounded very loud inside my head, so I would do my best. My friends are probably laughing by now as they no doubt only hear half of everything I say. In a museum setting, however, this became quite humorous as I was inclined to whisper and James never even turned his head. So, I was THAT museum cat lady. Whispering to meself. Yep.
It quickly become like old times hanging out; being impressed with the intricacies of some pieces, being blown away by one of the collage artists and sitting for a long time on the bench, staring at two giant collages in awe (at which point the museum sound track from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off gets stuck in my head – argh!), and, finally, that awkward moment when James turned to me in the quiet room that is right next to the front desk area and said, “This one looks like a toddler threw paint on the wall!”, after-which we both started church-giggling hysterically.
Clearly the staff missed our rebellious remarks and giggles, as they continued to chat James up upon our leaving, until he grew slightly over it and shouted “Well, Goodbye!”, and turn-tailed it out of there. We left the museum discussing all of the changes it has gone through in the past years, but how it still retains its charms.
After a lovely dinner at a Greek restaurant that he frequents with my mother, and where he is also a celebrity - or at least it would seem so by the fact that the owner did that whole come-out-of-the-kitchen-to-
greet-only-James schtick (did I mention people love James?) - we settled back at the house. James announced at this point that his “perfect bedtime”, as aforementioned, was .
It was 7, so we agreed that if I started a movie that was fine, but he would bow out early for bed. We began watching Philomena, and in no time James was, once again, hanging in with end credits rolling. He told me, with no grumpiness at all, that he couldn’t help it, he got “sucked in”, and that it was a wonderful movie, and we sat and discussed it for another 30 minutes. With almost childlike excitement for learning a new piece of history and not a bit of weariness in his eyes (could he ALSO be a “night person”?), James finally turned in after another fun day of camp, and as I did the same, I began to think that maybe I was the camper, settling into a new schedule filled with thoughtful, mostly-TV free activities, lots of nature, life lessons, and the coolest counselor on the planet.